Right from the start, Yooka-Laylee immediately brought to my mind the classic platformers from the 2000s such as Spyro the Dragon, Jak and Daxter, and Banjo Kazooie. These were games that offered hours of platforming fun. Banjo is an apt comparison to make because Yooka-Laylee's developer, Playtonic, is made up with talent from Rare's Nintendo 64 days. In fact, the same character design from Banjo and Donkey Kong Kountry created the new loveable duo. Fans of the series, and the genre in particular, will feel right at home with the controls as well as structure. Honestly, it's like the genre never left. It's a little scary how well the game harkens back to platfromers from two generations past. And, if gamers are anything like me, they'll be drawn in by Yooka-Laylee's beautiful aesthetic.
While the demo didn’t explicitly describe the relationship between the two, it’s easy to fall in love with the design of chameleon Yooka and the expressive (and “slightly crazy”) bat Laylee. In the timed demo, I guided the pair across several stages linked together by a central hub. The playable levels (think of them as spokes on a bicycle wheel) feel like a natural extension of the main area. Instead of trudging through disparate biomes from one central location, you'll have to scour levels to find torn Pagies that will unlock different levels. The area I played through in the timed demo appeared to function as a starting zone given the number of tutorial pop-ups that came up during play. Yooka and Laylee start with a pretty basic moveset such as jumping, gliding, and spitting projectiles. These skills are essential for getting through the numerous platforming sequences in order to reach the scattered Pagies (they can also be given as rewards from friendly NPCs).
As I made my way up a rockey tower in my hunt for Pagies, I was caught off guard by the platforming puzzles. It's easy for games like these to catch me off guard with their pretty, bright innocence and accessible design. It's not all fun and games! In one instance, Yooka had to use his spitting ability to launch projectiles at targets that would stop spinning platforms. The targets had to be hit at just the right time in order to create a functional path to the next leg of the journey. Both the setup and goal of the puzzle looked easy enough to tackle, though it ended up a feat several players (including myself) have noticeable trouble with. It's my fault for feeling cocky, I guess!
Yooka-Laylee wouldn't be a proper platforming throwback without collectibles and Playtonic has a dizzying amount of things to find. Apart from the Pagies, there are over 200 Golden Quills in each level that can be used to upgrade Yooka and Laylee's moves. There are also special tonics that will add enhancements to special moves, Ghost Writers that have special requirements for capture, health and power extenders, and so much more. It's enough to make any collection hound salivate.
Yooka-Laylee looks pretty, cute, and incredibly awesome. It's due out in Spring 2017, but it needs to expedite itself into my hands now. Please?
Teen Services Librarian by day, Darkstation review editor by night. I've been playing video games since the days of the Commodore 64 and I have no interest in stopping now that I've made it this far.